Life Is – And that’s enough

Do you ever have the feeling that you are alone in the world? Everyone else is off having some party to which you weren’t invited? They are all more successful than you, have more friends, more fun, more everything?

Or, do you sometimes sit alone and imagine millions of other people sitting alone too? Do you wish you could somehow get them all together, to feel connected, part of life?

Yeah, I do all of that too. And you know what? The first one is a lie, because of the second. But when we believe the first, we don’t notice that it can’t be true. Both even seem true at the same time.

This is our fundamental challenge as human beings. We have the most complex mind of any of the earth’s living creatures – and we use it mainly to hurt ourselves and others. We hold beliefs that contradict each other and we fight both sides. Sometimes we find other people to fight with instead of fighting ourselves – so we argue about politics or religion or even (if we are a teenage girl) about which “ship” is best in a television series. (A “ship,” for those unfamiliar with teenage girls, means the two people you want to get together. So, if the term had been around in the days we all watched Friends, “Ross-Rachel” would have been a “ship.” It can also be a verb, so you could have “shipped” Rachel and Joey.)

Someone blocked me on Twitter this week. My crime was possibly trying to explain a complex political issue to her, or it may have been that she thought I’d voted one way last September and when she realised I hadn’t she decided I was no longer worth the effort. This person first arrived in my timeline when she commented on a tweet about a post I’d written and later in the week  she joined in some conversations. At first I genuinely thought she wanted clarity on some issues, and did my best to explain. It was only after several tweets that I realised she wasn’t remotely interested in facts. I’m not sure what she was interested in, but at a guess it was trying to make herself feel better than the people she put down. (From other people’s comments she has this same type of argument a lot.)

It seems immensely sad how often we use this complex human mind of ours to attack others, to put them down, to defend ourselves, to try to be something other than we are, to attack ourselves, to tell ourselves we’re not good enough, to divide. It all comes from one simple belief – we are separate from everything else in life and we need to protect ourselves from everything else.

DSCN1898This morning I was thinking about that, and I realised that without this belief in separation life looks completely different. What if all the things I think I should be don’t matter? What if I am part of Life, and that’s enough? Some months ago, I saw an image of birds flying in formation – not just the usual V shape, but like a giant spider. Or web. (It may not even have been birds.) I’ve tried a number or searches to try to find it, but without success. The point of the image was that viewed from space, what seems to be hundreds or thousands of separate beings looks like one. This is true on a smaller scale too – a tree has hundreds of leaves, but looked at from a distance they are all one. A beach is made up of millions of grains of sand, an ocean is trillions of drops of water: all one.

So, why would I think that I should be different than I am? Why would I think that you aren’t doing exactly what you should be doing? Do I have any proof that our lives aren’t exactly as they should be, fitting into some larger pattern we can’t see? I’m not talking about God here, though you could include that. I just mean that, for all I know, my contribution to humanity is exactly what it should be. And so is yours.

I write about my Dad a lot, but with good reason. He showed me that you don’t need to be conventionally “successful” to touch people’s lives. I have no idea of the exact effect he had on the many people he met in his last few months of life, but I know he did affect them. One nurse told my sister they’d grown far too fond of him – in fifteen days. I sometimes think of our lives’ encounters like jet trails – they dissipate yet the molecules that made them are still somewhere in the atmosphere, or may even have drifted down to earth.

And so it is that we step through life as if in a dance – one moment feeling separate, alone against the world; the next moment feeling connection, belonging. What changes? Not our circumstances, just our thoughts. I had a thought a few days ago that I was lazy. I have this thought quite often, and mostly it bothers me. Or at least it did. I used to have the thought and then think I had to do something about it – deny it, disprove it, or punish myself because it was true. Rush into action. Do something, anything, to make me a better person.

Then I realised – I could simply let the belief go. I don’t need to do anything about it, and I certainly don’t need to give it any meaning. Sometimes I maybe am lazy – so what? Other times I’m not. That eternal contradiction, that eternal duality in life.

Lizzi Rogers started Ten Things of Thankful, a blog hop to promote gratitude, almost two years ago. This weekend is the hundredth hop. I haven’t joined in every one, but I do when I can. Cultivating gratitude helps us feel connected with one another, with our planet and with life. Perhaps you can tell that although I haven’t as yet used the word much in this post, it is infused with gratitude. I am thankful for the realisations I had this morning, and for the ability to express them – however inadequately – here. It’s not false modesty to say the expression is inadequate; it’s just a fact. Words cannot really convey what I mean, though if you intuitively understand them in the way I mean, then you will probably feel something similar to how I do now. Words aren’t perfect, but they are one of the best ways we know how to connect.

We can feel grateful – if we dare – for all the thoughts that float into our minds. Not because they will make us better people, but just because. I felt grateful when I noticed the thought, “I’m lazy.” I felt relief. Because it no longer felt like something fixed and true. It was simply a way I’ve tried for years to motivate myself. The odd thing is – it’s never worked.

If this seems a bit weird, well maybe it is. But I’m quite happy to be weird. Thankful even. I’d rather be weird and happy than normal and miserable. It astonishes me now, to think how much of my life I wasted on trying to be normal. What exactly is “normal” anyway?

My weirdness began several years ago when I read a book about forgiveness. It really kicked into touch when I read another book (Loving What Is)about questioning your thoughts. Of course, I always knew that some things I believed might not be true, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that most of them might not be. Or that it was my beliefs about life that caused my pain, not life itself. One hundred thank yous is nowhere never enough to describe the gratitude and relief I feel for having learned to ask:

  • Is it true?
  • Do I absolutely know it’s true?
  • How do I react when I think that thought?
  • Who would I be without that thought?

Sometimes I’ve used these questions to beat myself instead of to grow self-love. That was because I believed I had to improve, to be better, be more. I learned a few more questions, relating to letting go of feelings rather than thoughts: Could I allow them? Welcome them even? Could I let it be okay to feel fear, depression, anger? Could I let them go? No, no, no. And yet, yes. And then, could I notice how personal all this feels? Allow that even? Could I notice that it seems as if the thoughts and feelings are me? How it seems as if I let it go I’d disappear?

The thing that fascinates (and pleases) me the most is that I don’t have to try to change my thoughts when I ask these questions. In fact, it works far better if I don’t try. By “work” I mean stop feeling that I have to improve and be good and all that jazz, and instead see that I already am enough, you already are enough, life already is enough.

That’s something to be very thankful for.

We step through life as if in a dance: one moment separate, the next moment connected.

 

This post is part of the Ten Things of Thankful 100 blog hop. If you would like to read more posts, or to join in with one of your own, click the button below.

Ten Things of Thankful

Comments

  1. Yay, Yvonne! What an insightful, interesting post! The kind of meditation I know (and that I should do regularly, of course, but don’t) is to recognize when your thoughts have wandered from your mantra, and gently redirect them to your mantra. I love the the gentleness and forgiveness of this practice. No beating of oneself for doing it wrong; in fact, wandering thoughts aren’t even considered “wrong” but just part of the process.

    1. Author

      Thanks Sarah, glad you enjoyed it. It sounds as if the ethos behind your meditation practice is the similar as with the processes I use – observing non-judgementally. From that, and recognising that thoughts aren’t necessarily true, the changes occur without effort.

  2. nice.

    the separateness is a thing that creates so much, some necessary and useful (such as nurturing talents and building strengths ) and much un-necessary and hurtful (you must agree, your disagreement takes something away from me).
    How important the thoughts (and the reflection of the world they often claim) is such a valuable thing, to no assume it is important or necessary or even required to believe.
    I enjoy reading your posts.

    1. Author

      Clark, I’d argue that it’s not separateness that creates useful things so much as *individual* talents etc. Separateness implies disconnect, but we can be individual while still connected. Eg the cells in our bodies are individual and all have their own unique purpose, and also form part of the whole body. If the individual cells started to fight with each other or believed they should be more important than the other cells our bodies wouldn’t last long! But when we feel separate from others that’s what we do.

      Oh dear, have a disagreed with you? 🙂 No, not really, because I do take your point that there are aspects of each of that are unique and worthy of nurturing.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Sorry someone blocked you on Twitter, but I love how you turned the incident around to reflect. I know what you mean about wondering if you are alone in a world of millions. I feel alone a lot, even in a crowded room. Connections are hard to make that is why I like the TToT community. I also like the feeling that I am already enough. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Author

      Mary, I don’t mind that she blocked me at all. At least, not in the sense of it feeling personal. I know it’s not. I just feel a little sad when I think that she and others want to butt into conversations to put others down. I can’t think she’s a very happy person. But thanks for your sweet concern!
      Next time you feel alone in a crowded room, maybe remember that at least 50% of people are feeling the same way. (All the introverts! 🙂 Though I suspects some extroverts also feel it.)
      It is lovely how TToT connects people! Thanks for visiting!

  4. You write so beautifully, Yvonne. I tend to believe your first point too often and feel sorry for myself without thinking that most likely, they are all sitting around just like I am. Good point!

    1. Author

      Thanks Dyanne. I think many of us believe that first point very often and it causes us so much pain. If we could just remember that how many others feel the same way we’d feel a lot less alone. I have a relative who has a mental illness and feels totally alone, even though people around care so much and would love to help. The belief in separation keeps this person separate, not the reality.

  5. I do think that we are meant to improve, continue learning, whatever you wish to call it. However, I also think that we don’t have to feel “less than” simply because we haven’t reached point x y or z yet. I remember reading a quote once that said something to the effect of we don’t berate a young rose because it is blossomless and thorny, because we know that it will bloom eventually, and the thorns are just part of what it is. Likewise, we should overlook our weaknesses and be patient with ourselves–we will bloom.

    1. Author

      Kristi, I have a feeling we are both saying the same thing but in different ways. I totally agree with you regarding the rose, and Jesus’s message about the lilies is also part of it – “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Those lilies see no need to improve themselves and are just fine as they are.

      And, on one level, that is also true of us. Until we accept that our innate being is absolutely fine as it is, then we will be constantly in turmoil. By believing that *we* aren’t good enough our innate drive for growth is blocked. As you say, the thorns are part of what is, and we don’t berate the rose for being a bud. Too many of us start from the belief that our ‘bud’ is wrong and try to change that instead of allowing it to grow.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  6. This is such a great post, Yvonne, and so much in here speaks to me. Humans have such a strange need for balance between separateness and connection, don’t we? I particularly like the idea of that struggle – and I think it is, sometimes – in terms of a dance. One moment we’re swirling away from our partner, doing our own thing, and yet we are still moving in tandem with another person, even if separated. The next moment, we come back together, connecting and entwining with the other person and that part of the dance has a different kind of beauty all its own.
    You probably know I love Emerson and Thoreau and so the ideas here on being unconventional, different, or “weird” resonate soundly with me. Their ideas are some of the most comforting to me of all the things I’ve ever read. Some ideas are just universal and timeless.
    Glad you’re hopping with us! And glad to know you! Now I’m off to check out that book you mentioned.

    1. Author

      Thanks Lisa. I thought I’d replied to you before, but I see I didn’t! This was one of those posts that write themselves, and they do seem to connect more with people. I think it’s because they come from that sense of being enough, and touch that in others. Yes, yes, yes to being weird. I had a conversation with one of my daughters a couple of days ago when we realised it’s actually normal to be weird – everyone is in some way!

  7. I spent many a year trying to figure out how to be normal and doing a lot of damage to myself along the way. I am so glad I have gotten to the point where I am fine not being normal! This has allowed me to make decisions that at one time in my life I was ashamed to admit I wanted to make. I am much happier for allowing myself to be me. Though, that does not mean I don’t find myself falling into that self-criticizing pattern every once in a while. Old habits die hard.

    1. Author

      Karen, yes, I also am much happier just being me. And also need reminders not self-criticize. The good thing is that new habits can trump the old when we catch the self-criticism and let it go.
      Thanks for your comment.

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